Glosters/RGBW Regimental Association

Amalgamation or Disbandment?
What The Papers are Saying

     
 
 
 
 
To read the full press coverage by the Gloucester Citizen click here
 
RUGBY CLUB COULD WEAR BACK BADGE
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 22 November 2005

The Glorious Glosters' famous Back Badge could make a move from khaki green to Cherry and White. Bosses at Gloucester Rugby Club are ready to discuss using the threatened emblem.

But it is not known how the badge would be used at the club.

Spokesman Alastair Downey said: "Whether it can be used will be given full consideration, but it might not necessarily be on the shirt because tournament regulations are constantly changing.

"It will be discussed at a board meeting."

The regiment earned the right to wear the prestigious badge when they fought back- to-back against Napoleon's armies at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801.

Ever since it has become a symbol of pride t for those serving in the Gloucestershire Regiment, or its successor, the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment.

The future of the badge is in doubt because the regiment is due to be merged with the Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry, the Royal Green Jackets and the Light Infantry to become The Rifles.

Already the regiment's supporters have won the right to wear the Back Badge on ceremonial dress caps, but the fight to keep it on all dress is set to go on.


 
 
 HOWARD HITS OUT OVER GLOSTERS PLAN


Online at Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 01 April 2005
Pressure is mounting on the Prime Minister to save the Back Badge of the Glorious Glosters - and reverse the controversial decision to merge the county regiment into the Light Infantry.

With General Election fever mounting, Tory leader Michael Howard has pledged to halt immediately the "shocking" planned merger of the regiment with the Devonshire and Dorsets. Condemning the mergers and defence cuts, he said: "What a stab in the back for the men and women Mr Blair sent into the line of fire.

"Regiments, which are the focus of loyalty, the nurseries of military experience and potent symbols of pride, are to have their identities casually erased.

"A soldier's loyalty is not just to Queen and Country, but also to those he or she fights alongside, a group given a sense of comradeship by our regimental system.

"The Government's insensitivity to those ties is shocking."

Pledging to reverse the mass mergers, he said: "It's not just a question of getting the right military hardware, it's having ministers who support and understand the traditions and values of the armed forces."

Reversing the decision to merge the regiment would save the Glorious Glosters' famous Back Badge, a tradition unmatched in the British Army.

Tony Blair pledged to do his best to save the battle honour during a visit to the county last month, but he is now being urged to put those words into action by a leading city Tory.

Paul James, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, said: "The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary shouldn't act like disinterested bystanders. If the two most senior members of the Cabinet support it, why don't they just make a decision now?

"Their failure to do so leads you to believe that either it won't be saved and they want to delay an announcement until after the election, or it is a done deal to be unveiled just before polling day for party political advantage."

It is claimed that the mergers and cut in manpower are necessary because advanced military hardware and the need for fewer soldiers in Northern Ireland have cut the need for as a large an Army as at present.

But a Ministry of Defence spokesman said the department would push ahead with its reforms.

"We have stated our position clearly on many occasions," he said.

"These changes have been driven by the Army in the interests of enhancing operational ability.

"The planned reductions will free up 3,000 posts to redistribute across the Army - including the Infantry battalions - so that they will be more robust and less dependent on reinforcements."

Letters of support have flooded in to The Citizen after the newspaper launched its campaign to save the Back Badge.
 

 READY FOR THE ELECTION FRONT
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 22 March 2005

The last Colonel of the Glorious Glosters has pledged to make the campaign to save the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment an election issue. Retired Major General Robin Grist, who was also the first Colonel of the RGBW, met Wiltshire MPs at the weekend to discuss plans for the regiment's future.

He said they were horrified by the implications for the regiment's future despite changes to the plans announced by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon nearly two weeks ago.

Mr Hoon has bowed to pressure from disaffected troops and MPs and ditched proposals to completely break up the RGBW. Instead the whole regiment will join the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment to form a battalion of the Light Infantry.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram, MP for Devizes, Salisbury MP Robert Key and Westbury MP Dr Andrew Murrison have been taking advice from the general on whether to fight for the future of the RGBW or insist the local name connections are kept. Maj Gen Grist said the meeting consolidated the MPs' views that the Conservative Party was right to promise to increase defence spending.

He said: "I don't think it's going to be a big election issue but we will try to ensure that during the General Election defence is an issue that is raised.

"The regiment won't be 'saved' unless a decision is made to increase spending on the infantry.

"We believe passionately that local connections are very important to the regiment. People are proud of their regiment even if they have never been in the Army.

"In The Citizen we have just seen it with all the letters and comments about saving the Back Badge. The regiment only has to march through the streets of Gloucester for an incredible amount of people cheering and clapping them."

 

 

PARADE OF PRIDE WON'T BE THE LAST
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 21 March 2005

Proud veterans from the Glorious Glosters yesterday took part in the annual Back Badge parade and service-determined that it will not be the last. The event at Bristol Cathedral included a march past the Colonel of the Regiment, General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue to mark the famous anniversary.

It was exactly 204 years ago today that the Glosters were awarded the honour of wearing the Back Badge after fighting back to back against the French in the 1801 Battle of Alexandria.

Veterans of the former Gloucestershire Regiment were joined by Bristol Army Cadets and a marching band in the city watched by dozens of onlookers.

Yesterday General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue praised the high turnout and the veterans' passion to save the Back Badge.

"It was a marvellous parade, following a wonderful and moving sermon," he said.

Former Gloster Jim Seymour, 70, of Old Sodbury, near Yate said: "Hopefully we can show how much we want it to stay."

Veteran Ron Norley, 78, said they were determined to keep the Back Badge.

 

MPS PLOT TO SAVE WEST REGIMENT

Gloucester Citizen/Western Daily Press 09:48 - 19 March 2005

MP's will meet this afternoon to plot the next stage of their campaign to save the West's famous Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment. They will discuss strategy with Major General Robin Grist, the last Colonel of the old Glorious Glosters, and the first Colonel of the RGBW when it was formed in 1994.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has already been forced into a partial retreat after a massive campaign sparked by the announcement last December that the regiment would be scrapped.

Now the Government proposes to merge the RGBW with the Devon and Dorset Regiment as part of the Light Infantry.

Today, Conservative Wiltshire MPs, including Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram (Devizes), Robert Key (Salisbury) and Dr Andrew Murrison (Westbury), will take advice from the general on whether to fight on to save the RGBW or insist on a Wiltshire Battalion within an amalgamated regiment.

Mr Key said: "Loyalty to a local name and cap badge is a vital part of Britain's military strength. Salisbury proved its trust in the RGBW only last year by granting them the Freedom of the City."

The meeting takes place at the RGBW Regimental HQ in The Cathedral Close, Salisbury.

The changes are part of a shake-up to provide a more "flexible and deployable" force to meet 21st-century challenges.

 

 

TOWN CRIERS TO ADD THEIR VOICES TO CAMPAIGN

Gloucester Citizen/Western Daily Press 11:43 - 18 March 2005

Town Criers across the county will be joining the battle to save the historic Back Badge this weekend. They are taking to the streets to help celebrate Back Badge Day on Monday, and to reinforce the demands to keep the emblem despite the imminent changes to the regiment.

Tomorrow, the criers from Bristol, Mangotsfield, Northleach, Tetbury and Cheltenham will be taking to the streets. On Monday, the traditional Back Badge Day, the criers from Tewkesbury, the city of Gloucester, Nailsworth, Minchinhampton and Kingswood will also be playing their part.

The criers' action will take place alongside a service held at Bristol Cathedral on Sunday to mark Back Badge Day.

Tewkesbury town crier Mike Kean-Price has organised the criers into action. He said: "We want to see everyone who owns a Back Badge wearing it on Monday, and to make sure it can be seen by everybody.

"I want to see them displayed like poppies on Remembrance Day. The publicity could be what we need to actually save the badge."

Mr Kean-Price's colleague, Gloucester town crier Alan Myatt, said he was glad to be able to help in the battle to save the badge.

He said: "I will be in full regalia at the cross on Monday in order to let people know they still need to lobby their MPs in order to save this badge. We have lost everything else, but we do still have time in which we can try to save this historic emblem.

"We hope we can help encourage people to lobby MPs to keep this battle going."

 

 
BACK BADGE ROW WILL COST YOU VOTES, BLAIR TOLD


Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 18 March 2005

Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned that Labour would lose vital votes in key county seats if they allow the famous Back Badge of the Glorious Glosters to vanish into the history books.

Mr Blair pledged to look at the issue "very carefully" when he was questioned by a passionate Back Badge supporter during a whistle-stop tour of the county yesterday. Tewkesbury Town Crier Michael Kean-Price challenged the Prime Minister live on air during a BBC Radio Gloucestershire phone-in yesterday.

He said: "Prime Minister, as you may be aware, in the aftermath of the latest round of defence cuts, the future of the Back Badge of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment is in doubt.


"The Back Badge is much more than a piece of metal, it is the very core of the pride and integrity of this county. Will you, Mr Blair, please intervene to save our Back Badge?"

Mr Blair said the regiment and the badge, which The Citizen is also trying to save, were at the forefront of his mind.

"We are going to do our best to preserve the Back Badge," he said.

"We know that people feel very strongly about the identity of the regiment. It isn't defence cuts that are driving this, because defence expenditure is actually going up.

"What it is is the desire of the Army to upgrade to greater flexibility in the way that they move people across the regimental structure.


"I cannot give a promise on the Back Badge but we are looking at it very carefully and I hope will have good news on it."

But Mr Kean-Price had a stark warning for the Prime Minister: "This will, Prime Minister, cost David Drew and
Parmjit Dhanda their seats.

"We are talking about the pride of this county. Since the war, the faceless people of Whitehall have been downgrading this county.

"This is the last chance saloon."

It was announced last week that the RGBW would merge with the Devonshire and Dorsets to become a part of the Light Infantry, but no promises have been made about the future of the Back Badge.

Mr Blair held the phone-in during a two-hour tour of the county.

City MP Parmjit Dhanda, who presented the Prime Minister with a Gloucester rugby shirt during his visit, was delighted at the way the day had gone.

"I think it's excellent news and I would be very surprised if we don't end up saving the Back Badge," he said.


"I thought it was very encouraging indeed."

The Citizen has had hundreds of letters in support of the Gloucestershire regiment Back Badge since it launched a campaign to save it.

 
GLOSTERS TO STAY INTACT
Gloucester Citizen 12:58 - 09 March 2005

Gloucestershire's historic regiment will live on intact, it was revealed today after ministers unexpectedly retreated over plans to split it up. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon unexpectedly bowed to pressure from disaffected troops and MPs and ditched proposals to break up the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW).

In a statement today he admitted the split had been seen as "the disbandment of the RGBW and the abandonment of its own heritage"

Under proposals announced last year the Glosters element of the regiment was set to join the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment to form a battalion of the Light Infantry.

But after a meeting in January between defence top brass and former regimental commander Sir Robin Grist, Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda and Stroud MP David Drew, the Ministry of Defence has decided the whole regiment should join the Devonshire and Dorsets, thus keeping together a unit that has been together since 1994.

Mr Hoon conceded "more could be done to preserve the identity and heritage of the RGBW itself" and the Executive Committee of the Army Board had now concluded this should be done through an amalgamation with the Devonshire and Dorsets.

"This is excellent news," said Mr Dhanda today. "The regiment was very upset about the prospect of being split up. It is a strong unit that has served well in places such as Kosovo.

"The message that comes out of this is that the RGBW will be kept together. This change of heart is amazing."

He added: "This means the regiment will be keeping its identity. We are yet to hear about the Back Badge but if they have listened over this I am confident they will take on board our case over the Back Badge."

A working group on regalia such as the badge is due to report in June.
 

GLOSTERS BADGE DECISION WILL BE IN JUNE

 Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 03 March 2005

The Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment will not learn if it has saved its historic Back Badge after it is disbanded until June, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. The revelation that the regiment will not know if its fight to retain the Back Badge has been successful, until after the General Election, has dashed the hopes of Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda that the decision would be fast-tracked.

Last year Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon gave a delegation from Gloucestershire and MPs in the Commons positive signals that the Back Badge would be saved, even though the RGBW regiment was to be consigned to the history books.

The badge was awarded after the Glorious Glosters' heroic stand at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801.

The symbol is still expected to survive the splitting up of the RGBW.

The final details will be down to a working group that has been set up.

Mr Dhanda had asked the Defence Secretary if he would make s statement on the future of the Back Badge, in a written Parliamentary question.

Armed Services Minister Adam Ingram replied: "A working group has been convened by the Colonel Commandant of the Light Division to address the wide range of issues, including dress and uniform, arising from the merger of the Gloucestershire element of the Royal, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment to form a battalion of the Light Infantry. It is due to report in June 2005."


 

 
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 25 February 2005

A Tory Government would scrap plans to disband the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire (RGBW) Regiment and save the Glorious Glosters' Back Badge.
That was the bold pledge from Gerald Howarth, Shadow Defence and International Affairs Minister, who visited the county yesterday. He attacked the Government's "senseless" plans to merge the Glosters with the Devonshire and Dorset regiment, and claimed the Back Badge would definitely be retained if the Conservatives were victorious at this year's General Election.

Mr Howarth said: "Our position is clear. We fiercely oppose the Labour Government's plans to get rid of four regiments at a time when the British Army's resources are extremely stretched.


"A Conservative Government would reverse those senseless plans - I can say that categorically.

"It is proposed that the newly-merged Glosters would, in turn, be merged with the Light Infantry.

"Tony Blair argues that we need more specialists and, in a sense, I agree. The engineers and technicians are under extreme pressure," said Mr Howarth.


"But the first priority has to be men on the ground. Where is the sense in reducing their numbers?"

Mr Howarth said he had a strong affinity with the regiment through his constituency of Aldershot, where RGBW Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Oxlade is the garrison commander.

"We're talking about soldiers who have been in the same regiment for more than 10 years," he said.

"When you're fighting for your country, you're fighting for your comrades. That kind of bond can't just be transferred to a supposed super-regiment."

He also emphasised the symbolic importance of the Back Badge, and thanked The Citizen for its long-running campaign to save it.

"I fully support the campaign and I'm grateful for the way supporters of tradition and history have been given a voice," he said.

Mr Howarth was shown around the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum in the company of the city's Tory parliamentary candidate Coun Paul James and Colonel Rob Dixon, who commanded the Glosters between 1987 and 1990.

Coun James said: "The strength of feeling here in the city is something I wanted the Shadow Minister to see at first hand.

"I'm very pleased with the line the party has taken nationally with regards to preserving our regiment and its long-held traditions."

 
 
GLIMMER OF HOPE IN BATTLE TO SAVE GLORIOUS REGIMENT

Western Daily Press 09:34 - 10 February 2005

The doomed Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment was thrown a lifeline last night, as reports emerged that the Government may reconsider its decision to axe it. In the face of impassioned pleas from MPs and the regiment's former colonel, it is understood Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has said he would be willing to perform a dramatic U-turn.

At a meeting between MPs and Major General Robin Grist, Mr Hoon admitted he was not happy with the controversial decision.

And he revealed that it was still being debated at the highest level on the morning of the dramatic December announcement in Parliament.

Mr Hoon indicated that, even at this late stage, he would be willing to reconsider the options, but only if recommended to by the Army Board.

The Defence Secretary even suggested a meeting between opponents of the axing decision and top army officer, General Sir Michael Jackson.

The fact that Mr Hoon is even considering such a step will be seen as positive news for those who opposed disbanding the RGBW in the much-maligned restructuring of the British Army.

Reading West MP Martin Salter, who has been one of the leading campaigners on behalf of the regiment, said: "There may be a glimmer of light for the RGBW. But only if the Army Board can be persuaded to review their original decision. I think the regiment suffered at the hands of support within the Army's high command for others which have been longer established."

It has also been reported that Sir Michael Jackson made a surprise early morning visit to the Hounslow barracks of the RGBW, where he addressed the whole battalion on the parade ground.

He is said to have told members of the sergeants' mess that he would take a personal interest in the regiment's future.

The RGBW was axed as part of the Government's operation to down-size the Army. The decision will end the proud heritage of the Glorious Glosters, one of the most decorated units in the British Army. The regiment had already been merged with its counterparts in Wiltshire and Berkshire in 1994.

The latest plan would see the Glosters combine with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, and switch to the Light Infantry in a regiment of a name yet to be decided. The Wiltshire and Berkshire elements, which came from the Duke of Edinburgh's Regiment in 1994, would merge with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

If it were to be saved, the most likely outcome would be for the RGBW to merge with the Devon and Dorset Regiment, but exist as a stand-alone battalion retaining its name and identity.

Or, it could become a battalion of the Princess of Wales's Regiment in a similar scheme.

"It would be wonderful news if that was the case," said Brigadier Simon Firth, deputy Colonel of the RGBW for Bristol.

"Big demonstrations are not our style, but we have been asking MPs of all persuasions to take up the cause and explain that we are hurt and upset by what has happened."

Last night, however, North Wiltshire MP James Gray said he does not believe there will a reprieve.

"We all wish that was the case, but I don't think there is any chance of that happening whatsoever," he said.

"All along, Geoff Hoon has said he is acting on the advice of the Army Board, and I think he is just covering his back."

 
 
 'NO' TO ARMY PLAN DELAY
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 08 February 2005
Calls for the disbandment of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment to be put on hold have been rejected by a Defence Minister. In the Commons yesterday, Ivor Caplin confirmed the scrapping of the regiment would go ahead in response to a plea from Reading West MP Martin Salter.


The Labour MP said Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, had met MPs and RGBW representatives on January 19.

"Could the Minister confirm that at that meeting the issue of recruitment was discussed and if the infantry is currently already reviewing recruitment, would it not make sense to put on hold the decision to disband the RGBW?"

But Mr Caplin replied: "No."

The Defence Minister was also questioned by Reading East MP Jane Griffiths.

She told him that Anthony West, the High Sheriff of Berkshire, recently described the dismemberment of the RGBW regiment as "cruel".

"Unemployment is very low in Berkshire and recruitment has historically been difficult. Can I seek a commitment from my honourable friend that recruitment to regiments will be maintained in Reading and Berkshire?"

Mr Caplin replied: "We do employ a lot of different techniques to attract people to our armed services. I'm pleased to tell the House that our recruiting target is on course. At the same time, it is important that we have no no-go areas for recruitment into the Army and our armed services generally."

The controversial shake- up of Britain's infantry battalions, announced in December, will see the RGBW regiment marching into history, with the Glosters element joining the Devonshire and Dorsets to form a new battalion of the Light Infantry and the Berkshire and Wiltshire elements of the regiment subsumed into the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment.

A campaign by The Citizen to retain the Glorious Glosters' Back Badge has received overwhelming support.
 
I'LL TAKE INTEREST IN YOUR FUTURE - GENERAL

Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 29 January 2005


The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, yesterday reassured the Glorious Glosters that he would take a personal interest in their futures.

Gen Jackson visited the regiment's headquarters at Hounslow, London, to let the soldiers know that they will be in his thoughts when decisions on the future structure of the infantry are put into effect. By 2006, the Glosters element of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire (RGBW) Regiment will be detached and merged with the Devon and Dorsetshire Regiment into the Light Infantry.

Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Welch, commanding officer of the first battalion of the RGBW, said the general had put soldiers' minds at rest.


"I think the fact that he came so quickly after the announcement to the regiment was of great reassurance to the soldiers," he said.

"He said he would take a deep, personal interest in each and every one of their futures."

Gen Jackson spoke to the soldiers outside their headquarters on a grey, drizzly day and followed it up with a question and answer session with officers.

"I think he left with the right impression of the regiment as well," said Lt-Col Welch.

"Through the question and answer session, he got the impression of their fierce professionalism and that they will get on with business.

"I was very keen to reinforce to him that there is no drop in morale here. We are not that type of battalion. The character of the regiment is that we don't drop our heads."

He said he felt assured that the welfare of the soldiers would be foremost in the general's thoughts over the next year.

"They are my priority at the moment," he added. "But coupled with that is our links with the counties.

"Whatever the future of the regiment, the counties will still have their county regiments and the heritage will carry forward.


"All of the stripes and badges need to be sorted out in the future."

More than 1,500 people have backed The Citizen's campaign to keep the Glosters' famous Back Badge.
 
'APPALLING' ACTION OVER THE GLOSTERS
Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 28 January 2005

The Colonel of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment was only told about the decision to merge the unit on the day it was officially announced, it was revealed yesterday. Armed Services Minister Adam Ingram, in a response to written questions in Parliament from two Wiltshire MPs, said General Sir Michael Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, had personally contacted the Colonel last month.

Today General Sir Michael Jackson was making a "private" visit to the Glosters' barracks in Hounslow, West London.

Yesterday Dr Andrew Murrison (Con, Westbury) said the merger decision had been handled in an "appalling" way.

Meanwhile, David Drew, the Labour MP for Stroud, said he had not yet given up his battle to save the regiment.

The controversial shake-up of Britain's infantry battalions will see the RGBW marching into history with the Glosters element joining the Devonshire and Dorsets to form a new battalion of the Light Infantry and the Berkshire and Wiltshire elements of the regiment subsumed into the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment.

Sir Michael has revealed it was the most difficult decision he had to make.

The historic regimental names will be lost but the new battalions have been asked to look at how they can save regalia such as the Glosters' famous Back Badge.


But resentment over the announcement and its timing has continued.

In his Parliamentary reply to Dr Murrison and James Gray (Con, North Wiltshire), Mr Ingram said Sir Michael had responsibility for communicating the decision to disband the RGBW.

"On the morning of the announcement, the Chief of General Staff personally telephoned the Colonel Commandant of the Prince of Wales's Division and, in this instance, also the Colonel of the RGBW to inform them of the decision and the pending announcement. This was then relayed to the rest of the Regiment by the Regiment's Commanding Officer."

Dr Murrison said: "This has been appallingly dealt with and serving members of the M4 regiment and past members have every right to feel thoroughly aggrieved at the way this has been handled."

Mr Drew said: "Why are we the one regiment to be actually decapitated? There was a strategy with most regiments being untampered with but when you come to the RGBW all of a sudden they are the sacrificial lamb.

"Why is that? We are pursuing that and talking to ministers. If Mike Jackson were to talk to the regiment, he might see what was lost if the regiment was effectively disbanded. The Glosters will have some notional existence although my worry is how do you re-badge. If we keep the regiment, we keep the Back Badge."
 
WE'LL LET REGIMENTS DECIDE THE FATE OF THE BACK BADGE
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 27 January 2005

The new battalion being formed from the remnants of the Glorious Glosters has been asked to draw up plans to safeguard the regiment's famous Back Badge. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has pledged to "permanently recognise" the heritage of the Glorious Glosters in response to a petition from county residents.

The shake-up will see the end of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment.


The Glosters element will join the Devonshire and Dorsets to form the Light Infantry.

The Berkshire and Wiltshire elements will be subsumed into the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment.

Mr Hoon said: "We recognise the importance of preserving the illustrious heritage of all these regiments and we intend that this heritage is recognised permanently.

"Both the Queen's and the Light Divisions have therefore been asked to draw up proposals as to how they intend to safeguard each element of the RGBW within their respective divisions.

"We recognise how difficult this decision is for RGBW, but the Army Board is convinced that of all the available options, this solution offered the least overall disruption and the most coherent regional and structural outcome."

The historic badge was won when the Glosters fought back to back against Napoleon's troops at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. A petition calling it to be saved was given to Parliament by Gloucester MP Gloucester Pamjit Dhanda.

The new multi-battalion regiments will have a single badge to create a new, unified identity

 
 
'LOBBY MPS OVER SCANDALOUS MOVE'
Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 27 January 2005

A Former colonel of the Glorious Glosters has slammed the decision to "dismember" the regiment and urged its supporters to lobby their MPs to change the Government's mind.

Retired Major General Robin Grist said the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire (RGBW) Regiment had been unfairly treated in the latest Army restructuring. "The argument against reducing the infantry needs to be made repeatedly and loudly in every possible forum until eventually common sense prevails," he writes in a letter to The Citizen.

"There is no doubt the RGBW is being treated inequitably and grossly unfairly. We believe it vitally important that MPs be lobbied by their constituents, particularly in advance of an election."

The RGBW was formed in an amalgamation of the Glosters and the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment in 1994.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced on December 16 that the Glosters element is to merge with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment and together form a new battalion in the Light Infantry.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment is to merge into the existing two battalions of the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment.


"To the 75% of the current manpower who joined after 1994, they are not Glosters or Duke of Edinburgh's; they are RGBW and always have been. To lose their regiment is a misery for them," Gen Grist added.

"No regiment has been disbanded since 1945; no precedent for dismembering a regiment exists.

"The Army Board said that the guiding principles for the Future Infantry Structure were that regiments should be treated equitably, the best of the regimental system should be maintained, and there must be a golden thread linking former regiments with the new regiments.

"None of these principles have been adhered to in the case of the RGBW; no other regiment is to have its ashes spread further afield.

"The RGBW should, in all fairness, have been excluded from amalgamation again given that it is regarded as "an exemplary infantry battalion in every way" and has the third best retention rate of any battalion in the infantry.

"Neither is it the worst manned regiment currently in the Prince of Wales Division; five of the seven regiments are worse. The proposal, therefore, to dismember the RGBW is both incomprehensible and scandalous."

Gen Grist thanked the public for the "huge amount of support" it had received, either written directly to the regiment and in petitions.

The Citizen has already received more than 1,500 letters calling for the retention of the regiment's famous Back Badge when the changes come into force.

But it will be "business as usual" for the RGBW for the time being, Gen Grist said.

The changes will not take place until 2006 at the earliest and possibly not until 2008.

The battalion will move from Hounslow to Chester in August and then go overseas in September.
 
 

Geoff Hoon: review will create 'agile, flexible' Army
Mr Hoon said the changes were needed to create "larger, multi-battalion" regiments which would see a reduction in heavy armour and artillery as the infantry becomes more specialised.

He claimed that the "golden threads" of regimental tradition and heritage would be preserved while the Army's overall strength would remain at 102,000 soldiers, although there would be 400 redundancies.

The new regiments would also preserve their traditional recruiting areas, while the Territorial Army will be more closely integrated with the regular Army for training and operations.

Mr Hoon said the review was possible because of the peace dividend from Northern Ireland. But it was branded a "dismal statement" by Michael Ancram, the shadow foreign secretary.

He said: "It is a dark day for our Armed Forces and an even darker day for the proud regiments it seeks to scrap."

Under the changes to the Scottish battalions, the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers will join the Black Watch in the new Scottish regiment.

Of the four battalions to be cut, one will come from the Scottish Division, one from west of the Pennines and one from the Prince of Wales's Division in southern England.

The fourth would be lost by removing the 1 Bn the Parachute Regiment from the infantry structure and adding it to a tri-service ranger unit to support special forces.

The rest of the infantry, except the Foot Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment, will be organised into large regiments and the seven existing multi-battalion regiments will continue. Other changes include:

The King's Own Border Regiment, the King's Regiment and the Queen's Lancashire Regiment amalgamating to form two battalions within the new King's Lancashire and Border Regiment.


The Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment merging with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment.

Parts of the Royal Gloucester Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiments combining with the Devonshire and Dorsetshire Regiments before being amalgamated into the Light Infantry.

The 19th Mechanised Brigade, based in Catterick, converting into a light brigade from January.

The 4th Armoured Brigade, based in Germany, will convert into a Mechanised Brigade by 2006.

The 1 Bn the Parachute Regiment becoming part of a tri-service ranger unit to support special forces.


The Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Royal Regiment of Wales combining as the Royal Welsh.

The Staffordshire Regiment, the Cheshire Regiment and the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters becoming the Mercian Regiment.

The Duke of Wellington's Regiment, the Prince of Wales' Own Regiment and the Green Howards becoming the Yorkshire Regiment.

A new commando engineer regiment and a new port and maritime unit will be formed after an "impressive" re-equipment programme.

The review, which will be in place by 2008, has been backed by Gen Sir Michael Jackson, the Chief of the General Staff.
 
  GLOUCESTER MP CALLS FOR DETAILS OVER BACK BADGE
Gloucester Citizen 30th. December 04
 A Clear timescale needs to be drawn up for the final decision on the future of the Back Badge, says Gloucester MP Parmjit Dhanda.

Mr Dhanda has written to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to ask for an indication about when commitments will be made on how the badge will be preserved. He said: "What I want is a clearer view of when we will know the detail. I'm relieved that it has not been disbanded, but I want it to be firmed up and am confident that it will be
."

It has been announced that the Glorious Glosters will be amalgamated with the Devonshire and Dorsets regiment and then merged into the Light Infantry.

In announcing the merger, Mr Hoon pledged his support for the regiment's historic Back Badge, but made no firm commitment as to what would happen to it and when the decisions would come.

"I appreciate that with the decisions he had to make it wasn't possible to say anything other than that he supported the Back Badge, but we have to see it through," Mr Dhanda said.

"I welcome the fact he has gone a long way to making a positive noise about it, but now it's a case of pinning down firm commitments that I'm positive will follow."

Mr Dhanda said he was determined to see "that what we're hoping for comes into effect".

He added: "I want to see the Back Badge preserved."

Last month, Mr Dhanda joined a Citizen delegation to Westminster to meet Mr Hoon to talk about the amalgamation and the Back Badge campaign. The Secretary of State has mentioned this meeting in Parliament a number of times.

Mr Dhanda said: "I had a conversation with the Secretary of State, so he knows I am writing to him.

"What I want is firm dates of when his decisions will be made. We need to just harden it up in terms of getting specific dates for commitments.

"It's important that now that we have come this close we keep the momentum on all the way to the finishing line and make sure it is a positive conclusion.

"But we need to be certain. I don't want to leave loose ends hanging as we move into the New Year."


 
 
REGIMENTS' FIGHT GOES TO THE WIRE

Gloucester Citizen 09:30 - 07 December 2004

Army chiefs were last night locked in crisis talks over the future of some of the country's most famous regiments. A marathon meeting of the Army Board - which started at 11am - was still continuing late in the evening as they struggled to decide what to do with the West's most distinguished regiment.

The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW) was dominating the discussion amid claims the decision had been bungled - and with its future looking decidedly bleak.

The cuts will see the number of infantry battalions slashed from 40 to 36, a 10 per cent reduction. It is a proposal which has provoked protests and a particularly strong reaction in the West and in Scotland.

One of the units in the firing line is the renowned Black Watch, which is based in Warminster, Wiltshire, and has just completed a highly dangerous mission in Iraq's Triangle of Death.

There has also been a strong campaign in the West over the RGBW, which was only formed 10 years ago from mergers that included the historic Gloucestershire Regiment.

The Glorious Glosters won fame around the world for campaigns dating back more than 200 years, and veterans are hoping at least to save its historic emblem, the back badge, which was earned for a particularly courageous battle in Egypt.

Last night sources indicated the RGBW would probably be taken into the Light Infantry, possibly after a merger with the Devon and Dorset Regiment.

It was suggested mistakes had been made early in the process of restructuring the infantry that meant the option of remaining in the Prince of Wales's Division had been effectively closed off.

For political reasons it was decided to leave Welsh units alone, while the obvious solution of merging the Staffordshires, Cheshires and the Foresters Regiment in Nottinghamshire was discarded. Well-placed military sources claim this was an error as they are all single county regiments earmarked for amalgamation a decade ago.

"A decision was made several months ago that is now seen as unfair," one source said.

While the Army Board, chaired by the Chief of General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, discussed whether that original error could be reversed, campaigners were making 11th-hour appeals to save the historic regiments.

The Board's recommendations go to Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who will announce his decision next Monday.

General Jackson believes the restructuring is necessary to provide a more flexible and deployable force fit for the 21st century.

Although he has signalled historic regimental names will live on in the new units as far as possible, the proposals have sparked a fierce backlash.

Some Ministers fear the plans for the Black Watch are so unpopular north of the border they could lead to votes haemorrhaging from Labour to the Scottish National Party. The SNP kept up the pressure, calling on the Government to do all it could to save the Scottish regiments.

"Amalgamation of the Scottish infantry regiments would be a huge mistake and a massive betrayal, particularly of the soldiers of the Black Watch who have been serving in such dangerous conditions in Iraq," said Annabelle Ewing, the SNP MP for Perth.

Five Black Watch troops died during the deployment at Camp Dogwood in the Triangle of Death while US troops rooted out insurgents in the stronghold of Fallujah.

The RGBW is a local county infantry regiment, which recruits its soldiers from those counties borne in its title - as well as from Bristol.

The regiment comprises one regular battalion stationed in Hounslow, and two Territorial Army companies: The Rifle Volunteers (Gloucester/Bristol) and the Royal Rifle Volunteers (Reading/Swindon).

Brigadier Simon Firth, deputy colonel of the RGBW for Bristol, said the situation had been mismanaged from the beginning. Decision-making appeared to have been put in the hands of people with an interest in the outcome, leading to an unnecessarily divisive situation.

He said: "I think it is extraordinary timing to be reducing our infantry at a time when America and Australia are recruiting more soldiers, because of the threats in the world.

"A 10 per cent reduction in the infantry at a time when the forces are increasingly overstretched because of increasing requirements in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans is ill advised.

"The RGBW are being worse hit than any other infantry unit - the options being considered will lead to its dismemberment whatever happens.

"A highly trained and efficient battalion which has been in the Falklands and Bosnia is being virtually disbanded.

"The RGBW consists of distinguished regiments that have served Queen and country for 300 years and this is a poor reward. For short-term and very small financial gains, the loss of operational capability and the loss of an outstanding regiment is a very high price to pay."

Brigadier Firth said he did not play a major role in the battle to save the Glosters in the early 1990s because he could see the operational reason for it.

But this time it was different.

He acknowledged that the back badge was a very important symbol, equivalent to the famous red beret of the Parachute Regiment, but the operational effectiveness of the unit was the real issue.

The defence review announced by Mr Hoon will see Britain's overall military strength cut by 10,500, with a further 10,000 civil servants at the Defence Ministry also going.

The Army will see its current trained strength cut from 103,500 to 102,000. It will also lose 84 of its main Challenger 2 battle tanks.

The RAF will bear the brunt of the cuts, with 7,500 staff expected to go.

The Royal Navy is expected to lose 12 service vessels, including a fifth of its destroyer frigate fleet.
 
 'IT WENT VERY WELL AND WE ARE HOPEFUL OF A RESULT'

Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 30 November 2004
The Three readers in The Citizen's delegation to the Houses of Parliament all agreed that major progress had been made at the meeting.

Glosters' veteran Ray Peart, who lost his sight to a terrorist bomb in Northern Ireland after putting his "heart and soul" into saving the unique emblem, was optimistic after the meeting. "I thought it went very, very well, it was positive," he said.


"Even though we didn't get what we wanted, he (Defence Minister Geoff Hoon) put himself over very well and he was quite the gentleman.


"My aims were to keep the Back Badge and to ask whether there was any future after the amalgamation. And I wanted to let him know that each regiment could keep a bit of their name.

"I said if this happened can we do something along the same lines and he said he didn't want the troops to look like Christmas trees.

"Everyone got a fair crack at putting their points across and he really did seem to listen. I think he took what we were saying on board and really listened. When we say we want to retain it, it is all about the county. I explained that I lost my sight and why I had put my heart and soul into keeping the badge.

"We all got to make our points and I'm thankful to The Citizen and to Parmjit Dhanda for allowing us to do that.

"I hope the three of us have all got to know each other and I think everyone was hopeful.

"I was nervous at times but everyone made it easy and I did get to make my point."

After the death of her husband Desmond, who served with the Glosters in Korea, Sylvia Hoare was keen to retain the traditions associated with the Back Badge.


She said she was pleased with how the meeting went.

"I think it went very well. We'll have to wait and see, but we all got our points across.


"We are hopeful of a result, probably to try to keep the Back Badge and the identity of the Glosters somehow.

"Of course, he (the Minister) wouldn't commit himself because he has to have more meetings with the others, but he understood what we were fighting about.

"If there has to be a merger and it does happen, then we asked if it would be possible to keep the identity of the Glosters through the Back Badge

"It was awarded and it's part of their history and if you are awarded something it can't be taken away. It's not like anything any other regiment has - it's unique.

"There's a positive way and, as I looked at him, I thought something might come out of it. It was a worthwhile day because if we
don't try, then you don't get anything done."

Army cadet Jake Coles is part of the younger generation of county residents determined to retain the Glosters' history.

The 14-year-old said he was optimistic about the future of the Back Badge.

"I think the meeting went well," he said. "He seemed to understand what we were campaigning for and he seemed to be on our side as much as he could be.

"The Glosters Back Badge has such individuality and could not be replaced. We have had it because we have been in certain circumstances and no other regiment has been allowed to wear a Back Badge.

"To take that battle honour away is like giving a child chocolate and then taking it away.

"As cadets, we learn about our history and our heritage, and as cadets it really does make us proud.

"When the RGBW merged it was the end of one regiment. We are not scared of it going away, but we just want to keep the badge.

"At first I though he was a man of real high standing with a stiff upper lip, but he understood us and took the time to speak to us as equals.

"I think we have made our point. We'd like to see the RGBW stay as it is but I think that's doubtful, but we have done what we can."
 
A GREAT DAY FOR LOCAL DEMOCRACY

Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 30 November 2004
Make no mistake about it - our meeting in the office of Defence Minister Geoff Hoon was a great day for local democracy - and our readers.

Here in his private Whitehall office, Geoff Hoon had the guts to face up to three of most staunch supporters of The Citizen
campaign to save the Back Badge. Democracy in its truest sense with blind Glosters veteran Ray Peart, 59, of Abbeydale, leading our Back Badge charge.

Geoff Hoon rarely sees delegations like The Citizen's. But ours was different.

Here you had an influential Labour MP with a relatively slim majority, and the hot topic of merging historic regiments over which his ministry has come under intense fire.

I was impressed with Geoff Hoon's focus on The Citizen campaign. He gave us half an hour of his time before going into the lion's den of defence questions in the House of Commons, just down the road.

And would he have seen our delegation if he was not taking our Back Badge demands seriously? I don't think so.

He told us he was "very sympathetic" to the campaign. Now, I hope I am not being too presumptuous, but when a politician - and a senior one at that - uses phrases like this you just might be in luck.

Parmjit Dhanda certainly thought so and I believe our back badge campaign will influence his decision on retaining the badges and insignia of some of the historic regiments like the Glosters when he reports on the Army Council's regimental reorganisation plans in a week's time.

If he does, it will be a great democratic victory for our readers.

I presented him with 1,200 names in our Back Badge petition - all those that had come in the post by yesterday - and I could see he was moved as he leafed through the pages of support messages.

Thank you for listening to us yesterday Mr Hoon. We sincerely hope you will not turn your back on our Back Badge.

Ian Mean Editor, Gloucester Citizen


 
 
LISTEN TO US MR BLAIR
Gloucester Citizen 16th. November 2004

Matt Holmes, Assistant Editor Reports:
The readers of The  Gloucester Citizen unite as one and demand that the Prime Minister saves the Glosters' Back Badge. Five pages of signatures  to save the Back Badge will be carried in toady's Citizen (Pages 1 to 5)
and a copy of the newspaper will be raised in the House of Commons tonight by Parmjit Dhanda MP for Gloucester.

 
 
WE'VE ALWAYS HAD THAT BADGE... YOU KNEW THAT WAS ONE OF YOUR BATTLE HONOURS AND YOU WORE IT WITH PRIDE'

 
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 13 November 2004
An Ex-glosters corporal who lost his sight in an horrific terrorist attack in Northern Ireland has backed the campaign to save the regiment's Back Badge.

Receiving a top Rotary award for his charitable work yesterday, Ray Peart, 59, of Abbeydale, explained the pride he felt in wearing the famous badge. "It's never been worn on another uniform," he said. "Since 1801 at Alexandria we have always had that badge and we're still proud of it. "You knew that was one of your battle honours and you wore that badge with pride. "We are a family regiment and the recruitment around here is done through the Glosters and that badge. It denotes the Gloucestershire area."

Mr Peart was patrolling the notorious Divis Flats in Belfast in July, 1973, when a 15-year-old terrorist detonated the bomb that
took his sight.

Remembering the day that changed his life forever, he said: "My half of the patrol went to the second floor and when we got to the landing there was an electric cupboard with its door missing and a mattress inside. "When the first guy opened the door the mattress fell open and I could see a cardboard box with a wire and masking tape. "It was detonated and killed two men of my patrol, blinded another in one eye and blinded me."

Mr Peart underwent three operations in a desperate attempt to save his sight, but the third deprived him of the last remaining hazy light of his vision. "The last thing I ever saw was the disintegration of the bomb," he said.

Mr Peart, who later retrained as a telephonist and worked at Barclays in Gloucester until his retirement in 1995, was presented with the award at a ceremony at the Parliament Rooms in Gloucester yesterday. It acknowledged his tireless work for charity over more than 25 years.
He had been so moved by the selfless giving of others in his hour of need that he wanted to repay the aid he had received.

He said: "People helped me when I was hurt and with donations to get a guide dog so I wanted to give something back. I have done it as many years as I can remember."

His work was in the form of sponsored swims, walks, mountain climbing, horse riding, diving and even riding a tandem around Gloucestershire with Father Christmas. It benefited a range of charities and good causes, from Winston's Wish and Cloud 9 to the causes closest to his heart, funds aiding those who served in Northern Ireland and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

After Mr Peart was honoured by the Rotary Club yesterday, the club's president Angela Sneddon said: "There are very few community service awards we give out to people particularly deserving. "Ray is very deserving for his work on fundraising and we're very proud of him."

Tomorrow Mr Peart will be at the Cenotaph as he is every Remembrance Sunday, paying his respects in particular to the Glosters who died serving their country, men like Jeff Brakewell and Ian Brady, the young men who died in the blast that took his sight. He said: "Those other conflicts, other than the world wars, should be remembered too. "Just because you're fighting an enemy without a uniform doesn't mean it's not a war. Our war was with terrorists like in Iraq today."
 

THE GOVERNMENT could be forced to scrap its plans

By David Macaulay and David Byers at Westminster
Posted 13 Nov 04
THE GOVERNMENT could be forced to scrap its plans to merge single-battalion military regiments such as the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire with the Devonshire and Dorsets because of a mass-rebellion of
colonels.

That is according to Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and ex-Colonel of the Foresters Regiment in Nottinghamshire, who says there could still be hope for the regiment to stay independent - retaining its historic uniform and cap-badge.

The prospect of mergers has sparked a series of campaigns by old soldiers and communities for regiments to retain their historic badges.

Five MPs - Parmjit Dhanda (Lab, Gloucester), David Drew (Lab, Stroud), RevMartin Smyth (Ulster Unionist, Belfast), Alan Simpson (Lab, Nottingham South) and James Gray (Con, North Wiltshire) have now signed a Commons Early Day Motion calling for the famous Back Badge worn by the Glorious Glosters to be saved.

Earlier this month, colonels reluctantly agreed to the mergers in the hope their battalions would not be axed under Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's reorganisation of the armed forces.

But those initiatives have now been thrown into serious doubt, because the Government is said to be re-thinking its plans to merger the single-battalion Scottish Black Watch Regiment - one of those originally earmarked for the merger - with its five neighbours.

Black Watch is currently braving terrorist fire in Iraq, and rewarding the regiment by automatically dissolving it as soon as it returns home would be seen as a public elations disaster. Conservative leader Michael Howard has
said it would be "shameful".

But if the Government does do what Mr Mercer, the Tory MP for Newark and party homeland security spokesman, describes as a "spectacular" U-turn over Scotland's single-battalion regiments and allows them to survive independently for political reasons, it would make it almost impossible for them to still merge the single-battalion ones south of the border.

Mr Mercer claims that colonels of the English regiments this week threatened to resign en-masse if the Government shows such duplicity.

They say that either the Government goes ahead with its mass-merger programme as planned, or scraps it completely - but that ministers cannot simply cherry-pick which regiments to merge and which not to.

Mr Mercer said that this re-invigorated the campaign to save the regiments from further amalgamations.

"This is extraordinarily good news for the single-battalion regiments as a whole if the Government does a spectacular U-turn with the Scottish Regiments," he said.

"I have it on extremely good authority that, if the Government does not take the same measures with the English regiments, then there will be mass-resignations of the colonels.

"There is a great deal of displeasure that any Scottish U-turn would see one rule for one area, and another rule for another area. The Government is playing party-politics with our Armed Forces, and the Colonels will not let
them do it."

Mr Mercer says that the Government's original plans to reform the Armed Forces are now in "chaos" because it keeps "going back on itself".

And he claimed MPs had been given the green-light by colonels to campaign vigorously for regiments to remain independent.

"I have heard that the English colonels are threatening mass-resignations unless this is solved satisfactorily.

"And these are people who are used to obeying orders."

Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted no decision had been made on the future of Black Watch, or any Regiments, after claims of the u-turn.

No decision will be made until mid-November, the Government says.

Mr Blair told the Commons: "I fully understand the concern expressed about uncertainty affecting the future of the regiments in Scotland.

"Chief of the General Staff Mike Jackson is considering at present how best to implement changes.

"No final decision on the future structure of Scottish regiments has yet been taken." END

 

 
 POLITICIANS AREN'T FIT TO LACE MEN'S BOOTS
From the Letters Page Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 11 November 2004
As an ex-Para, Londoner, therefore an outsider, I was welcomed into the Glosters by those hard, loyal professional soldiers as one of them. Like all young men I thought I was tough, but when I saw those 22 to 30-year-old Gloster Korean vets, I knew I was not as tough as I thought.

I served with men from the Forest, Stroud, Bristol, Gloucester and all over the Shire. Men as tough and hard as steel.

Drank with them, tabbed 20 to 30 miles a day, carried packs, ammo and weapons that would have killed a mule, dug trenches every night, patrolled and ambushed the enemy, often wet to the skin and freezing cold.

I laughed and joked with them in jungle, desert and mountains.

We carried wounded and dead mates down from the balconies of the Divis flats in the Lower Falls, Belfast, in blankets, and sat and cried together when our mates were killed by snipers.

The soldiers of the Glosters are my dearest pals - if only they knew how much I love and admire them.

If you put all the politicians together they would not be fit to lace one Gloster infantryman's boots.

As long as one man who wore that Back Badge lives, we will never be forgotten.

Thank you "Old Butties".

NORMAN "PARA" CHAMBERS

Oxford Road

Gloucester

 
 
COLONEL FIRES SALVO OVER REGIMENTAL MERGER PLAN

Gloucester Citizen
10:30 - 11 November 2004
The big guns have been wheeled out to save the proud tradition of the Glorious Glosters.

Former Colonel of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW) Major General Robin Grist made it plain that he will fight all the way to save the Glosters' name from extinction. "No decision has yet been made but it's a threat," he said yesterday.

"We still believe it should not happen because the RGBW has been such a success.

"It has demonstrated a standard of excellence equal to any in the infantry.

"Such an outcome would be incomprehensible to the regiment.

"We think it would damage the Army.

"If we are going to change the Army, we need to keep the best."

Maj Gen Grist, who was at the head of the Glosters when they were merged into the RGBW in 1994, retired in 2001, handing over to the present RGBW Colonel, General Kevin O'Donoghue.

If Government plans to reduce infantry battalions from 40 to 36 go ahead, the RGBW, which is made up of one battalion, will either merge into a "super regiment" with the Devon and Dorsets or disband altogether.

Either outcome would have a detrimental effect on the spirit and morale of the serving soldiers but the second option would be catastrophic, said Maj Gen Grist.

"Only the further amalgamation with the Devon and Dorsets is acceptable, the alternative of disbandment would disadvantage our officers hugely, indeed most would probably leave," said Maj Gen Grist.

He admitted that retaining the Back Badge bearing the Sphinx would be difficult.

"There would have to be negotiation about that," he said.

"The trouble is it becomes more and more diluted.

"In a way, although the Back Badge was won by the 28th Regiment of Foot in Alexandria in 1801, what it represents today is 'That's my regiment'."

Maj Gen Grist agreed that the Army needs to be restructured so that infantry battalions do not need to move every few years and offer families more stability, but he cannot understand why the Government wants to cut Army numbers from 108,500 to 102,000.

Ultimately, the RGBW could pay the price of those cuts.

"The history gives everybody a sense of belonging - firstly, what's more important is that they are soldiering with people who they can share common experiences, like Gloucester Rugby Club, for example.

"Secondly, they work incredibly hard - there's no overtime, it's a sense of doing a job well done with people they know."

A decision on the future of the RGBW is expected by the end of the year.

 
 
PROUD OF BEING IN GLOSTERS
Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 11 November 2004
Gordon Parsons has strong family reasons for wanting to retain the famous Back Badge of the Glorious Glosters.

Mr Parsons, 78, of Havelock Road, Hucclecote, explained how he had followed his father, his father's brother, and other family members into the county regiment. His father Roy and uncle Leslie were both in the Fifth Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment from 1914 to 1918, with both men surviving the conflict.

His father was injured in a mustard gas attack while in the trenches during the war, and he was sent to Italy to recuperate.

He then returned to the frontline before finally being given leave to return to Gloucester to get married, where, during the actual service, the announcement of the ceasefire was made.

Gordon himself joined up during the Second World War in 1944, and proudly wore the same uniform of the Glosters that his father and uncle had worn before him.

Although he was injured by a bomb during the war and was forced to change regiments, Gordon never lost his love for the Glosters.

It is that respect that has led him to call for the retention of the Back Badge.

He said: "I cannot see how they can want to do this if they have ever bothered to see the regiment's battle honours.

"The Government don't seem to want to merge or close any of the regiments too close to London.

"If they wanted to disband the Grenadiers then we would never hear the end of it.

"There are a lot of young men who came from all over the country who are proud of being part of the Glosters, and that should never be forgotten."

 
 

EX-COLONEL IN GLOSTERS' RESCUE BID

Gloucester Citizen 10:30 - 10 November 2004
Today retired colonel Major General Robin Grist, launched a campaign at the regimental HQ to save the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW). The regiment faces the loss of its identity with the possible merger or even the threat of being disbanded.

Among options believed to be on the cards is the possible amalgamation with the Devon and Dorsets, to become part of the Light Division.

Former Colonel of the RGBW Maj Gen Grist warned that the Glorious Glosters was effectively facing disbandment and the abrupt end to more than 300 years of service to the country.

"The armed forces are about to embark on one of the most fundamental and expensive changes since the end of the Second World War," he said.

"The RGBW is a proud regiment which draws strength from the West Country and has spent the last 10 years (since the previous amalgamation) creating an outstanding operational team.

"This is an increasingly dangerous world with a growing and real threat to this country. This is not the time to reduce the capability of those who do the work and are already facing operational tours following each other at decreasing intervals.

"It is a strange decision to disband such an excellent, experienced regiment at this vulnerable time."

Maj Gen Grist said possible plans mean the regiment could have no future links to Gloucestershire.

He said: "No other regiment is faced with such insensitive and damaging options, all of which mean the end of this fine regiment."

Support is growing for The Citizen's campaign to retain the regiment's famous Back Badge.

 

CHAIRMAN JOINS THE BACK BADGE OUTCRY

 Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 10 November 2004
The chairman of Stroud District Council has spoken of her "great alarm" at plans to merge the Glorious Glosters.

As The Citizen's campaign to save the famous Back Badge worn by the regiment is gaining backing from across the county, Coun Sybil Bruce used Saturday's freedom marches to declare her concern about the latest possible amalgamation and loss of the county's military heritage. In a speech to spectators and troops during the freedom ceremony in Stroud, Coun Bruce said she read about the possibility of a new merger with "great alarm".

She later added: "I fully back The Citizen's campaign to save the Back Badge."

The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW) is set become part of a "super" regional regiment.

The Citizen has launched a campaign to save the Glosters' unique Back Badge honour, won when the soldiers fought back to back against Napoleon's troops at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801.

"The very best traditions of the Glorious Glosters have been incorporated into the RGBW and I am sure that I speak for everyone when I say we very much regard it as ours," said Coun Bruce.

"It is therefore with great alarm that we read of the possible amalgamation of the RGBW into a new Wessex Regiment."

It was feared the merger could result in the regiment losing much of its particular identity.

"I am fearful that this could cover too big an area and lose the local identity which we are celebrating today," she said. "Over the coming months, our local regiment will be looking to local people to support it in its struggle to retain its identity."

The freedom of the Stroud district was being granted to the regiment after the previous merger, between the Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiments in 1993.

Coun Bruce said the gesture was to strengthen the bonds between the people and their regiment.

n The former Colonel of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, Major General Robin Grist, has called a press conference today demanding that the regiment is saved.

 
SUPPORTERS RALLY TO AID BADGE CAMPAIGN

 Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 09 November 2004
The Queen's representative in Gloucestershire is backing The Citizen campaign to save the Glosters' Back Badge and the traditions of our county regiment.

The appeal has already been backed by veterans, politicians and senior county figures. Now the county's Lord Lieutenant, Henry Elwes, has thrown his support behind the campaign and will write to the Government to urge it to rethink plans to merge regiments.

The historic Back Badge is a symbol of a glorious and heroic past in Britain's history and one of the proudest mementos of the regiment's past. But if the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire (RGBW) regiment is forced to merge into a "super" regional regiment the Back Badge could be lost forever.

Mr Elwes said: "I absolutely back this campaign to keep the Back Badge. It is a fantastic regiment. Merging it is going too far. Many of us are making representations to the Secretary of State.

"This regiment is working well now, 10 years after it was merged and I think the county regiment needs the support of county people."

He said the Government has given reasons for merging such as poor recruitment but he pointed out there were large numbers still joining the RGBW.

"Keeping the identity of the regiment is the most important thing but keeping the Back Badge is also very important as is keeping the American Presidential citation."

The Glosters won the right to wear the Back Badge on regimental headgear in 1801 when the regiment defeated Napoleon's troops , fighting back to back at the Battle of Alexandria in Egypt.

The Glosters also fought famous rearguard actions in campaigns such as Dunkirk and Burma in the 1940s and Korea in the 1950s.

The Glosters are the only infantry regiment to have been given a citation from the President of the United States.

Glosters D- Day veteran Lewis Roberts, of Mitcheldean, said the Back Badge was distinctive to the Glosters and must be saved.

He said: "The Glosters earned it all those years ago for fighting back to back.

"When I was a Gloster it was an honour to wear it. It's not just simply a badge to pin on your coat but part of the regiment and its history. It is a great shame and a disgrace if it is lost. It shouldn't be allowed."

Mr Lewis, 79, who was involved in the Normandy landings on D-Day, said the Back Badge had been a standard the soldiers looked up to for years.
 
WE MUST KEEP THE REGIMENT'S TRADITION ALIVE

Gloucester Citizen10:30 - 08 November 2004
Today The Citizen launches a campaign to save one of the proudest aspects of the county's military history - the Back Badge worn by the Glorious Glosters.

We are determined that this unique symbol of the county regiment must not disappear as part of the latest defence shake up. It now seems a done deal that the Glorious Glosters - or rather the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW) - will be merged into a "super" regional regiment.

But whatever name changes may have taken place, to the people of this county the regiment has always remained the Glorious Glosters.

And the soldiers have always been recognised by the Back Badge they are entitled to wear at the back of their headgear.

This sphinx insignia - awarded at the Battle of Alexandria more than two centuries ago - has been passed down through generations of fighting men with proud connections to the county.

Should the RGBW) - which has only been in existence for 10 years since the last merger - be forced to amalgamate into a larger regiment for the South West, we believe this unique emblem and tradition must remain.

It would be an insult to all those who have fallen as they bravely fought for our infantry regiment if this is did not happen.

It is a special symbol of this county's pride and courage.


The regiment was originally awarded the badge in one of the most remarkable episodes of our military history.

At the Battle of Alexandria, the 28th Regiment (from North Gloucestershire) was ordered to hold a vital piece of land while it was repeatedly assaulted by Napoleon's infantry and cavalry.

Encircled, one rank of the soldiers about-turned and the troops stood back-to-back as they fought off an attack from the rear. The Glosters succeeded in stopping dead a cavalry attack.

The victory was seen as a turning point in the fight against Napoleon's attempts to expand his overseas empire and following the campaign, the regiment - later the Glorious Glosters and currently the RGBW - was allowed to wear the emblem on the rear of its headgear.

It is a tradition we must not allow to die.

 
 
DEATH KNELL SOUNDS AS WEST REGIMENT FACES ULTIMATUM ON MERGER

Western Daily Press 09:43 - 30 October 2004

An army regiment at the heart of the West will be scrapped unless it agrees to amalgamate with another English battalion, the Western Daily Press can reveal today. The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment (RGBW) has fallen victim to a major military shake-up planned by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.

In a statement to the House of Commons in the summer, Mr Hoon announced plans to streamline the British Army from 40 battalions to 36 - a 10 per cent reduction.

Mr Hoon said four infantry battalions - three from England and one from Scotland - were to be axed as part of the "restructuring exercise".

The Daily Press learned yesterday that the RGBW is one of those now teetering on the brink of extinction.

It was formed only 10 years ago after the amalgamation of the Gloucestershire Regiment - or Glorious Glosters - and the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment, whose 300 years of history and traditions it inherited.

The RGBW is a local county infantry regiment, which recruits its soldiers from those counties borne in its title - as well as Bristol, which it also covers.

The regiment comprises one regular battalion - the 1st Battalion - currently stationed in Hounslow, and two Territorial Army companies: the Rifle Volunteers (Gloucester/Bristol) and the Royal Rifle Volunteers (Reading/ Swindon).

Since 1994, its soldiers have completed demanding exercises in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo.

But the Daily Press can today reveal that the RGBW's chief officers have been given two options - either disband the regiment completely, or merge it with another, understood to be the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.

A final decision is not expected until December, but West defence experts and war veterans believe whichever route is taken, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol will be left without a recognisable military presence.

Brigadier Simon Firth, deputy colonel of the RGBW for Bristol, said while he understood the need for the MoD to save money, the plans were an "insult" to the West.

"The Government's plans to reduce the infantry by 10 per cent come against a background of overstretched defence budgets thanks to a number of disastrous projects and overspending, " he explained.

"I recognise there's a need to streamline our forces to make them more effective but to disband a regiment of this quality at a time when the world is a more dangerous place, really is the height of folly.

"The country needs to protect its citizens and to do that it needs more troops on the ground, not less.

"It is an insult to the West Country to effectively demolish such a historic regiment. It's a proud regiment that belongs in Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. If the merger route is taken, its identity will be lost forever."

Veterans of the 'Glorious Glosters' last night spoke of their dismay at the MoD's plans.

Korean War veteran Ben Whitchurch, 73, of Knowle West, Bristol, said: "They are wiping our regiment off the face of the Earth.

"Being part of the Gloucestershire regiment, I feel very strongly about this. Even if it merges with another regiment, it is losing its own sense of identity.

"It's the regiment with the most decorated honours on its collars, so to do this to it is a complete disgrace.

"When we came home from Korea we were the Glorious Glosters - now we are the forgotten army."

D-Day veteran Don Iles, 79, from Alveston, South Gloucestershire, said he was "pretty sick" at the news.

"It was bad enough when they amalgamated us with the Berkshire and Wiltshire in 1994, " he said.

"I shouldn't think this will be popular with anyone in the Glosters.

"Every infantry regiment means a lot to the people that serve in them but in the Glosters especially. After Korea, we were known worldwide."

As part of the MoD reforms, the RAF will shed 7,500 jobs and the Royal Navy 1,500 jobs by 2008.